Title: ‘I’m starting to get worried:’ Raptors hit rock bottom after loss to Pistons
Date: February 12, 2017
Original Source: The Athletic
Synopsis: In my latest for The Athletic Toronto, I sort of recapped the Raptors’ terrible loss to the Pistons but mostly examined what the locker room vibe may signal about the state of the team.
Mired in a prolonged slump, confidence seemingly at its lowest since a sweep at the hands of the Washington Wizards, the Toronto Raptors needed a break. A physical break to rest some bumps and bruises and hopefully get one of their key defensive pieces back on the court. A mental break to clear their heads after six weeks of trying to figure out what, exactly, had gone awry. Some separation, to attack the problem anew with fresh legs and fresh eyes.
They got said reprieve, with three days off before Sunday’s game against the Detroit Pistons, and for a while it looked like it had done everything they’d hoped short of bringing Patrick Patterson back into the fold. The time off had allowed them to experiment with – and then deploy – a new interim power forward in rookie Jakob Poeltl, and he provided quality minutes. Some real, actual, full-court practice time helped stabilize a defence that held the Pistons to 66 points through 36 minutes. Outside of Cory Joseph, most everyone was playing well.
But instead of a turning point, what the Raptors found instead over the final minutes of Sunday’s game was a bottoming out. They coughed up a 16-point lead, allowing the Pistons to mount the largest comeback in their franchise’s history. Raptors’ lineups that succeeded in the first half were abandoned. The offence, once the calling card of this core and something they could lean on to shoot their way out when things got sticky, was found wanting in the late-game, shot-for-shot portion of the comeback that saw DeMar DeRozan miss a potential winner on a stagnant isolation of Marcus Morris. Their defence aborted signs of hope, instead falling apart and surrendering 36 points over the final 12 minutes.
“Pretty bad. They kind of got everything they wanted every time down,” DeRozan said. “It’s been like that lately. We have to put 48 minutes together.”
They did not put 48 minutes together because, it seems, they can not of late. And so rather than a stepping stone out of the muck, the Raptors put their collective boot on unsteady ground, sinking to their furthest depth yet.